BEAR Magazine

Gay marriage

Two decades after the German parliament voted for same-sex civil unions, a gay couple who were among the first to enter into such a partnership looks back at their struggle for equality — and how far there’s still to go.

„I was always gay, for me being gay was all I knew,“ says Andreas Hochrein-Margeit. „So it never occurred to me I could get married or start a family. I just never thought the option would be there.“ 

Andreas (57) and his husband Axel Hochrein (55) have been a couple for some 25 years. November 10, 2020 is a special date for them — it marks 20 years since the German parliament voted in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples, giving gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as heterosexual married couples. 

Andreas and Axel entered into such a „registered life partnership“ (eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft in German) in 2002, becoming one of the first couples to do so. Two years ago they finally got married.

They say things have changed a lot for gay couples in Germany over the last two decades.

Andreas (l) and Axel entered their same-sex civil union in 2002

u.s. census bureau releases cps estimates of same-sex households

— For the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau released estimates of same-sex couples in its annual America’s Families and Living Arrangements tables package.

According to estimates from the 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC), there are 543,000 same-sex married couple households and 469,000 households with same-sex unmarried partners living together. This compares to 61.4 million opposite-sex married and 8 million opposite-sex unmarried partner households. In addition, 191,000 children live with same-sex parents.

— For the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau released estimates of same-sex couples in its annual America’s Families and Living Arrangements tables package.

According to estimates from the 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC), there are 543,000 same-sex married couple households and 469,000 households with same-sex unmarried partners living together. This compares to 61.4 million opposite-sex married and 8 million opposite-sex unmarried partner households. In addition, 191,000 children live with same-sex parents.

The CPS recently made improvements in survey measures and processing to better gauge the makeup of U.S. households. Among the updates: changing the relationship to householder question to include opposite-sex/same-sex options and adding gender neutral parent identification questions that allow respondents to identify as having two mothers or two fathers present in the household.

The focus on same-sex couples reflects growing family diversity in the United States, which also includes unmarried partners living together. Among adults ages 18 and over, 18.5 million (7%) are living together, up from 14.2 million (6%) in 2009. Cohabiting couples also compose a larger share of all coupled households now, accounting for 12% of coupled households compared to 10% in 2009.

The CPS recently made improvements in survey measures and processing to better gauge the makeup of U.S. households. Among the updates: changing the relationship to householder question to include opposite-sex/same-sex options and adding gender neutral parent identification questions that allow respondents to identify as having two mothers or two fathers present in the household.

The focus on same-sex couples reflects growing family diversity in the United States, which also includes unmarried partners living together. Among adults ages 18 and over, 18.5 million (7%) are living together, up from 14.2 million (6%) in 2009. Cohabiting couples also compose a larger share of all coupled households now, accounting for 12% of coupled households compared to 10% in 2009.

There are 36.5 million one-person households, which is 28% of all households. In 1960, one-person households represented only 13% of all households. The number of families with own children under 18 present has declined in the last two decades. In 2019, 41% of all families lived with their own children under 18, compared to 45% in 2009 and 48% in 1999.

In 2019, 32% of all adults age 15 and over had never been married, up from 23% in bear-magazine.com estimated median age to marry for the first time is 29.8 for men and 28.0 for women, up from ages 23.7 and 20.5, respectively, in bear-magazine.com a quarter (26%) of children under age 15 living in married-couple families have a stay-at-home mother, compared to only 1% with a stay-at-home father. More than half (54%) of young adults ages 18 to 24 live in their parental home, compared to 16% of those ages 25 to 34.

These statistics come from the 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which has collected statistics on families for more than 60 years. The data show characteristics of households, living arrangements, married/unmarried couples and children.

For more data on families and living arrangements, visit Families and Living Arrangements on bear-magazine.com

No news release associated with this product. Tip sheet only.

These statistics come from the 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which has collected statistics on families for more than 60 years. The data show characteristics of households, living arrangements, married/unmarried couples and children.

For more data on families and living arrangements, visit Families and Living Arrangements on bear-magazine.com

No news release associated with this product. Tip sheet only.

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‚i never could have imagined‘ 

A coalition of the center-left Social Democrats and the Green party came to power in 1998. The socially liberal government looked to table a bill, after years of pressure for civil unions to be legalized. The legislation was opposed by several German states, including Bavaria, and the party that would later produce Chancellor Angela Merkel — the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). 

Axel is from Würzburg in Bavaria. „I was a member of the CSU [the CDU’s Bavarian sister party],“ Axel explains. „Then Andreas asked me — why do you want to be a member of a party that does not support you having equal rights? And I left soon after.“ 

Read more: Homophobia in German politics — How things have changed

The CDU/CSU coalition along with the state of Bavaria took legal action against the decision to allow civil partnerships, dragging out the passing of the law for almost a year. Axel and Andreas remember following the legal proceedings on the television. 

Ultimately, German courts ruled that civil partnerships did not violate the constitution. Germany became one of the first European countries to allow civil unions. 

By this time, the couple was living together near Würzburg. While the conservative state could not go against the federal ruling, they made it impossible for same-sex couples to enter into a partnership at an official registry office. 

„So we got ‚married‘ here at the same kitchen table where we eat dinner every night,“ Axel laughs. „Just us, our mothers, and the registrar. It was very moving — but maybe not all that special.“ 

„But we did go to Paris the next day for our honeymoon,“ Andreas interjects. 

Read more: Same-sex civil unions and the Catholic Church

For Andreas and Axel their actual marriage in 2018 was a very joyous affair

Partnered or married? 

Axel and Andreas say they made a point of referring to themselves as „married“ from the start. 

„The term used in the German media was ‚Homo-Ehe‘ [homosexual marriage] even though it was not a marriage,“ Axel says. „But that was actually really helpful for us; and that helped many people in society get used to the idea that it really was a type of marriage.“ 

The civil partnership ensured many equal rights as those of married couples, but in certain issues — for example, tax purposes — it did not. 

While it was to take a further 16 years for Germany to legalize marriage on an equal basis, Axel and Andreas described the civil partnership as „important groundwork“ for equal marriage. 

Read more: 1 out of 3 LGBT+ people in Germany experience discrimination at work

„I don’t know how many protests we attended, petitions we signed in those 16 years,“ says Andreas. „But without the precedent of the civil partnership, it would have been a lot more difficult.“ 

The German parliament finally ratified equal marriage for same-sex couples in 2017, in the process nullifying the power for new civil partnerships to take place. Andreas and Axel opted to wait until 2018 to get married on their anniversary. 

„We always said we have married anyway,“ Andreas says. „So when it came to the time where we were actually getting married, people said — but you got married already? What else do you want?“ 

Health Minister Jens Spahn (r) has been married to Daniel Funke since 2017

The „real“ marriage was a much for a joyous affair — a three-day party in their home in rural Bavaria, where over 120 people descended. The couple says they were lucky that they never faced discrimination from their couples in the rural, conservative area. 

„All our friends from Berlin said ‚You poor things, living there in the countryside,'“ says Axel. „And then for our wedding, they came to Würzburg for three days — and realized everyone was so supportive. It was a great party.“ 

„It did not change our relationship for us, just as the civil partnership had not changed our relationship,“ Andreas adds. „But externally it meant a lot. I could finally say he was my husband.“ 

A new normal 

Nowadays Andreas still works as a tailor, while Axel has retired from his job in management. „I cook the dinners mostly: a proper marital division of labor,“ he laughs. Additionally, Axel volunteers on the board of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, one of the most prominent rights groups in the country. 

As a couple, they say the things they get more frequently asked about nowadays is their decision not to have children. Same-sex couples have been allowed to adopt together since 2017. 

Same-sex couples in Germany have been allowed to adopt together since 2017

„For us, children were never part of the question,“ Axel says. „But we see now so many young gay and lesbians who are building rainbow families, and see that as one of their implicit rights.“ 

„We are very aware of the situation in Poland today, an EU country, they have these LGBTI-free zones,“ says Axel. „And Russia, certain African countries. There are still countries that we cannot visit because of who we are. Even here in Germany, we see so much support for far-right radical homophobic policies. And for some mainstream politicians, there is apparently still a connection between homosexuals as perverse or pedophiles.“ 

The last comment comes in reference to CDU politician Friedrich Merz, candidate for the chairmanship of the party and possible hopeful successor to Angela Merkel as chancellor. In a recent interview with German tabloid Bild, he was asked whether he would object to a gay chancellor. 

„No,“ Merz replied to Bild. „The question of sexual orientation, as long as it is within the scope of the law and does not concern children — at this point, I reach my absolute limits — it is not an issue for public discussion.“ 

Read more: Germany reveals compensation plan for gay soldiers

But Andreas and Axel also cite the faces of German politics that have increased acceptance for LGBT+ people — former Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and current Health Minister Jens Spahn have both enjoyed favorable public reactions. 

But for Andreas and Axel, the vote 20 years ago remains pivotal in changing their lives. 

„There is this problem in German — the word ‚Freund‘ [boyfriend] can also just mean friend. So if I call Axel my boyfriend, people think he is just my mate,“ Andreas explains. „And then I could start using the word ‚partner‘ — in a legal sense. It meant a lot.“ 

For the couple, the greatest joy is simply that their marital status is no longer an issue at all.

„It is great to just feel like a normal part of society,“ says Axel. „We don’t think about it anymore.“

Other statistics on the topicdemographics in france

Divorce rates in Europe 2019, by country (per 100 marriages)

Number of straight and same-sex marriages in the Netherlands 2009-2020

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Protections against discrimination

As long as a couple is married in a jurisdiction with legal authority to authorize the marriage, an insurance company can’t discriminate against them when offering coverage. This means that it must offer to same-sex spouses the same coverage it offers to opposite-sex spouses.

Married same-sex couples and lower costs

The Marketplace also treats married same-sex couples the same as married opposite-sex couples when they apply for premium tax credits and lower out-of-pocket costs on private insurance plans. This is true in all states.

In most cases, a married couple has to file a joint federal tax return to be eligible for a premium tax credits and other savings on a Marketplace plans. Learn about the limited exceptions to the joint-filing rule.

When you apply for coverage in the Marketplace, you’ll be asked if you’re married. If you and your spouse plan to file a joint federal tax return, select “yes.”

What to do after the wedding

Your marriage will be recognised in all other EU countries – although this does not fully apply to same-sex marriages.

If you get married in an EU country that is not your country of origin it’s a good idea to register your marriage in your home country. This should be done in accordance with national rules in your home country. You can also check with your home country’s consular office if you can register your marriage at the consular office or if you should do so in your home country.

If you move to another EU country for work, your husband or wife can come and live with you there. Check the residence rules for:

– europe, gay marriage pioneers –

On October 1, 1989, for the first time in the world, several gay couples in Denmark tied the knot in legal civil unions.

Danish homosexual couples would however have to wait until 2012 to be allowed to marry in church.

The right to a religious marriage ceremony was first allowed in The Netherlands in 2001.

Thirteen European countries followed: Belgium, Britain (although not Northern Ireland), Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Some countries allow only gay civil partnerships including Croatia, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland.

The Czech government has backed draft legislation that would make the country the first post-communist member of the European Union to legalise same-sex marriage, but its fate is uncertain.

Slovenia also allows civil partnerships but in 2015 rejected in a referendum a proposal to legalise gay marriage.

In 2014 Estonia became the first former Soviet republic to authorise same-sex civil unions.

In Romania a referendum aimed at enshrining a ban on gay marriage in the constitution failed in 2018 because of a low turnout.

– progress in the americas –

Canada was the first American country to authorise same-sex marriage in 2005.

In 2015 the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriage nationwide at a time it was banned in 14 out of 50 states.

The United States‘ first gay marriage had actually taken place in 1971, when a Minnesota couple obtained a marriage licence thanks to an overlooked legal loophole. The marriage was officially recognised in March 2019, after a five-decade legal battle.

In Latin America five countries allow same-sex marriages: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, joined by Ecuador in June 2019.

Mexico’s federal capital authorised gay civil unions in 2007 and marriages in 2009. Half of its 32 states have followed.

Costa Rica’s Supreme Court in 2018 ruled that a ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional and gave parliament 18 months to amend the laws.

Cuba left out of its new constitution adopted in February 2019 changes that would have paved the way for legal same-sex marriage. The definition of marriage will be left to a new Family Code which will be put to a referendum.

– taiwan, first in asia –

While much of Asia is tolerant of homosexuality, Taiwan became in May 2019 the first in the region to allow gay marriage.

In the Middle East, where homosexuality is repressed, Israel leads the way in terms of gay rights, recognising same-sex marriages that are performed elsewhere although not allowing such unions in the country itself.

Several countries in the conservative region still have the death penalty for homosexuality, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Australia (2017) and New Zealand (2013) are the only places in the wider Asia-Pacific region to have passed gay marriage laws.

Same-sex marriage – when national practices differ

Emma, a Belgian national, married Carine, a French national, in Belgium. When Emma had to move to Italy for work, Carine followed her – but they were not regarded as married by the authorities, since same-sex marriage is not recognised in Italy.

However, because registered partnerships between same-sex couples are allowed in Italy, Emma and Carine can be granted the same rights as couples with registered partnerships under Italian law.

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